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Exclusive Video And Details For Halo 5’s Infection Mode

by Kyle Hilliard on May 09, 2016 at 08:30 AM

Halo’s Infection mode, the fan-created multiplayer variant that eventually became a true Halo mode, is coming to Halo 5: Guardians this month. The mode plays out as humans-versus-zombies outbreak with infected players attempting to grow their numbers by taking out the opposite team, who is simply trying to survive. For its Halo 5 iteration, 343 is going above and beyond to make the mode stand out as more than just a variant playlist, with three modified maps, a multitude of aesthetic changes, and more customization options than those available in Halo 4.

343 Industries passed along a video from community coordinator John Junyszek and multiplayer engineer Geoff Landskov detailing some of the ways this version of Infection differs from Halos past while showing off some gameplay. We also had a chance to speak with Junyszek and Landskov about how different the maps are and how much balance has been taken into account when considering Halo 5’s abilities.

You can check out the video below, and Infection will arrive alongside the free Memories of Reach update coming later this month.

Game Informer: How have the maps been changed for Infection?
John Junyszek: For the dev maps we “infected,” it was actually my hack-a-thon project that I pretty much just did on the side, and I developed certain rooms with longer hallways, put in cover for zombies to be able rush down those longer hallways and I tried to change up the layout as much as I could and make it suited for Infection.

One of my things, back in the day before I even started working here was, playing a lot of Infection and even doing a little bit of YouTube videos for Halo Infection, so I felt like I was probably one of the more prepared people to make these kind of infected maps so I just put it upon myself to go ahead and “infect” them.

So this was your project for 343’s hack-a-thon? That’s where everyone pursues their own project for a short period of time in order to foster new ideas, correct?
We had one, but it wasn’t really official. I just sort of did it while everyone was doing their own hack-a-thon. There was a 343 official one, but I just did mine to sort of go with the spirit of it.

Geoff Landskov: We basically had a full week to do whatever project we wanted, so we got a lot of really good things out that, one of them being the new Infection maps.

Plaza's Forge-infected dev map will be called Nerve Center, while Overgrowth's variant will be called Malignent.

Can you give us specific change examples? How is R.I.P. Tide different from Riptide?
I put cages in certain rooms, l blocked of a couple pathways to make dead ends that players could hold out. One of the other things is bottom middle – I put up bars so that blocks off anyone traversing through bottom middle, but it is also a good holdout spot, so if a player wants to hold out down there, they are dedicating to that one spot, and the bars allow zombies to smack him if they want to wait for guys to go all the way back to the bars. Then they can hit them. And then you also have the fact that he’s holding out in a tunnel and he’s fighting off through this one area and trying to make his last stand. It’s a bunch of little spots like that scattered throughout all these maps, especially the ones I made. That’s just one example.

Have the core shapes of these maps changed?
Junyszek: It’s all Forge. It’s not actual dev work on the map. It’s placing objects to make the hallways longer or adding cover to those hallways. They all have a different aesthetic than they normally do.

Landskov: They have a green tint, and they all look kind of dreary compared to their normal counterparts. It’s mostly the fog and the screen-space coloring feels very different.

You mentioned in the video above that the HUD for the infected has changed?
The HUD is basically the same. It’s just a screen affect, which is the green veins coming around the sides. We wanted to make sure it was very obvious for players that were playing as infected characters. All the gameplay parts are the exact same.

What are some of the biggest surprises you came across while tweaking, adjusting, and playtesting for this version of Infection?
The biggest surprise for me was how opinionated everyone was about on what kind of abilities we should and shouldn’t have. We experimented a lot with abilities for infected players. The thrusters were a huge point of contention; actually, we’ve got multiple camps that like it both ways. We ended up going with it because it turns out most players aren’t at our pro team’s caliber and they feel they have a lot better chances as infected players with thrusters. We experimented with doing sprint, but it felt like the infected didn’t really have a unique movement experience. It was a much more just traditional, “You are a zombie now,” but nothing has really changed about what you do.

You changed up the starting weapons. It seems like you want to move players away from using pistols at the start.
That was another point of contention. Most modes that we’ve released for Infection in previous games do have pistol starts, but they also didn’t have "our" pistol. What we really noticed in playtests was as infected, you could kind of get boxed in on your spawns and this would happen almost immediately because you’ve got a bunch of players, if they decide to set up correctly, all have pistols and can headshot you before you really make it too far out there. Where, if you have limited pistols on map – first it makes people actually move on the map and kind of go for new weapons. It turns out people prefer pistol over things like sniper, more shotgun ammo, or other power weapons throughout the map, because it is so good for lining up headshots when we have no shields for infected. We really, really wanted to increase the movement around map and also decrease the frustration players were having who were getting head-shotted over and over again.

The alpha infected are invisible. Did this dramatically change the balance of the mode?
They’re partially invisible and play a little bit stealthier. What we’ve noticed with alphas especially, is they do a really good job sneaking up on people over-relying on their radar. The alphas can take advantage of that at certain places, but I would say we don’t notice too many changes in player behavior, except in the beginning part.

Is there a fear of them being overpowered by staying off the radar?
It has stayed balanced in terms of how many human surviving rounds we want, which is relatively low. We want it to be a unique experience where you did something really right to be able to survive the entire round. In terms of that it has worked pretty well. I would say we haven’t really noticed the alpha infected being the reason people die as the game goes on. They usually die just because of getting overwhelmed by too many zombies after the first few deaths, I’d say.

Junyszek: The alpha-zombie traits are just there to help them get started, get those first initial infections, and make sure the game doesn’t stagnate right at the start.

Junyszek mentioned playing Infection on YouTube prior to working at 343. What is your history with the mode, Landskov?
It was probably my favorite mode in previous Halos to play socially, just because I really enjoy getting a game of Infection going. It’s something I am passionate about. Probably not at the same level as John [Junyszek], but it’s something I definitely sought out and enjoy working on it.

The best part, for me especially, are the custom games you can get from having a base infection mode. All the crazy stuff people have created in previous Halos – I really wanted to enable as many of these as possible in our engine. That is kind of the big high-level approach I took, and then also adding an Infection game mode is always really fun. A Lot of people are really passionate about it, myself included.

Considering its popularity, why hasn’t Infection been there from the start?
We had so many game modes we wanted to get out [at launch] and we did have a lot of changes we made for this engine that stopped us from being able to directly be able to port game variants over. We also just wanted to make sure we had a fully thought-out experience instead of just enabling some kind of free-for-all mode that sort of looks like Infection, but doesn’t reach parity with previous Halos. We wanted to make sure we had a good experience for players.

Can you go through some of the planned customization options?
The one I am probably most excited about is the surviving points over time. That’s something we haven’t had in previous Halos and when making a few custom game modes, it ended up being really fun and changed the way you play Infection. Right now, it’s mostly about getting points from killing zombies or becoming last man standing rather than focusing entirely on the survival aspect. We wanted to make sure we had the tools to make sure we could do that in custom game modes, and of course include one of these in the future in our playlist, once we see how the community feels about them and what kind of things they produce.

We wanted to include toggle-able infected effects. We know in halo 4, people were really annoyed that they couldn’t actually disable those. If you were playing Infection, you basically had to play our fully customized version of Infection. We wanted to make absolutely sure we disabled those. We added a few extra features like enable and disable last man standing nav points, convert on suicide option – all pretty standard stuff.

The other thing we changed was multiple last Spartan standings. Instead of just having a single one every single time, we wanted to make sure you could have a last squad standing so you could have two or three people holding out and get the last man standing bonuses. Although, that did exist in Master Chief Collection, as well.

In the standard upcoming Infection playlist, will the last man standing bonuses be consistent?
It will always be the same thing for each game variant. Since we’re launching with just one version of Infection, it will always be two swipes to kill, increased reload speed, and unlimited ammo.

Junyszek: The last man standing takes two hits as opposed to just one sword hit and he’s done and converted. He actually gets another chance.

For our review of Halo 5: Guardians, head here.